Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders/MSF) received a distress call about a wooden boat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The boat filled with 700 people capsized before a rescue boat could arrive.
“It was a horrific sight, people desperately clinging to lifebelts, boats and anything they could to fighting for their lives, amidst people drowning, and those who had already died,” described Juan Matías, MSF project coordinator. “The fact that we were first called to assist this boat and then shortly afterwards sent to another one highlights the severe lack of resources available for rescue operations.”
MSF rescued around 400 migrants from the boat and found 25 dead bodies. Unfortunately, many of the missing might be children. MSF said they rescued at least 13 minors. Irish vessel LÉ NIAMH helped MSF’s boat Dignity I.
“Due to circumstances unknown, the vessel capsized and the LÉ NIAMH immediately commenced rescue operations, deploying all available assets including (inflatable boats) and life rafts,” stated Irish officials.
Rescuers are still working on the rescue, but fear the death toll will only rise.
“We don’t know how many people might be trapped within the belly of the boat that capsized and sunk, that’s our greatest fear,” said Will Turner, the MSF emergency coordinator.
For over a year, migrants from war torn northern African countries attempt to flee to Europe on boats. Boats, mainly from Italy, rescued more than 188,000 in that time. During that time, 3,279 people died, including 1,800 people died between January and April this year alone. In April, 800 people perished in one catastrophe.
Italy took in the majority of migrant entrants in the past year. In July, they actually turned away 700 people from one boat because immigration centers ran out of room. A girl who survived a trip that left her entire family and friends dead told people back in Gambia not to risk the trip to Europe.
“I come from Gambia,” she wrote, adding:
I cross the sea to come to Italy. Many people have died, my best friends and my sisters and my brothers have died in the wave to come to Italy. What I can say is only to tell you people who want to come don’t come please, my brothers and sisters, because [it] is hard to say goodbye.